Feature: Accelerating Women's empowerment: Approaches for the next 15 years
Accelerating Women’s Empowerment: Approaches for the next 15 years
By Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, World YWCA General Secretary
Women and girls in the YWCA movement have always taken a pragmatic approach to women’s empowerment and change in social relations and behaviours. This movement can legitimately claim its place as a matriarch of the women’s struggle for equality, justice, human dignity, peace and care for the environment. Women and girls in the YWCA have been at the centre of serving communities and advocating for policies and global systems that place women’s leadership and gender equality at their core.
Across the world, the YWCAs’ young women’s leadership and mentorship programmes and education, development, and child care initiatives as well as fitness and well-being programmes continue to provide women with choices and options, building their capacity to make personal decisions and have their voices heard.
In 1995, the World YWCA was among the many voices that identified, defined and stated the twelve critical concerns related to empowerment of women and fulfilment of their potential to work for world peace and development. The Beijing Platform for Action framed the global agenda for women, complementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Five years later, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1325/2000, that defined the core elements of the women, peace and security agenda. In 2009, the General Assembly passed a resolution establishing a comprehensive UN entity on gender.
However, women throughout the world continue to experience discrimination, abuse and lower status despite the existence of many laws, policies and statements by decision-makers. Going into the future, what is challenging, exciting, innovative that can give us hope? To achieve women’s empowerment and gender equality, the next decade must be shaped by significant shifts in approach and strategy.
First, a strong and practical rights-based approach needs to be supported by adequate budgets, quality services, and skilled workers. At the intersection of Beijing’s critical areas of concern, this approach reaffirms the interdependence of rights but these will only become a reality when we work together to hold our governments, families, churches and communities accountable.
The World YWCA also advocates comprehensive prevention approaches. A well planned, resourced community level intervention like supporting girls’ education can reduce the risk of women and girls experiencing violence, contracting HIV, dying in childbirth or dropping out of school.
Investment in women and girls continues to be at the centre of empowerment, building self-sustaining families and communities. The adage that if you educate a girl you educate a nation must be implemented in its literal sense. The next decade must focus on education, training, and technology and knowledge management with more leadership opportunities for women and girls, and an intergenerational approach built on positive cultural values and traditions. This will unleash the potential of girls and women both as individuals and collectively.
Another precondition for empowerment is safety and security for women and girls. The future demands accountability and imagination to create safe and secure spaces for women and girls that guarantee a life free of violence, sexual abuse, exploitation, human trafficking, sexual slavery and other forms of abuse. Its embraces the notion that women and girls must enjoy their homes, schools, places of worship, their cities, and their communities. Survivors of violence and women and girls living with HIV must have full access to service, information, and freedom to live their lives without stigma or discrimination. Governments must be held accountable for enforcing laws that protect women from violence and ensuring provision of social and health care services including psychosocial counselling services.
We hope that when we look back at this decade, we will be able to claim significant progress in the empowerment of women and girls.